Every day, twice a day, I walked the 4 kilometers from the Hosteria Farallon Dillon to Ballenita's downtown area. Each time, I passed houses of different types: A banker's fantasy mansion (with tennis court, volleyball court, two olympic sized swimming pools -- who has 2? -- massive mansion along with 2 smaller guest homes), broken down tin roof homes, homes made with cardboard and driftwood, regular homes for regular people who own beachfront property, closed down Eddy's Hostal, homes with hammocks in their front entrance area, homes that had mini-tienda's or homes that had small ad-hoc street food stands.
IAnd all along the way, whether the road had massive pot holes or no paved road at all...just dirt...cars went whizzing by playing dodge ball with both people and pot holes.
As I walked, I always waived hello to everyone and anyone. I had learned not to say "hola!" but "buena!" Not to say "good morning" but "buena" and not to say "how's it going", but "buena".
After probably 7 trips in 3 days, people actually replied "buena Larry!" back to me! Somehow, and I don't know how, they knew my name!
I had eaten at probably 10 different street food stands in Ballenita's downtown or Malecon area by the 2nd day. Each one had slightly different food. Some had Patacon's of different types: fried banana only. Fried banaa mixed with potato or yucca. Other's had bar-b-qued empanadas filled with cheese or pollo or carne. Some had Shrimp on a stick or chicken on a stick or some kind of unidentifiable meat on a stick.
There were also the soup vendors: Sanchocho, Sopa Marinara, Sopa Sopa Sopa.
I tried them all. And they were all amazing. I only sat down twice at a restaurant while I was there. If I wasn't eating at the hotel, I was eating standing up. But I did find a street restaurant that had plastic chairs and two eligible to be married twin daughters at a soup stand/cafe on Ballenita's main road that I particularly liked. The owner was a great host and inside the stand were his daughters and wives (yes, wives). The stand had about 7 boiling pots the size of which I think I've only seen in movies or big restaurants. And they were all going at the same time.
The area had 8 tables, all full of people laughing and eating and sharing whatever they had ordered. When I first got there, they all went silent. But, once I sat down and started drinking and eating the soup that I had ordered (Sopa Marinara), they stopped staring and when back to their own lives and loves.
I hate fish. Just hate it. But, this soup, which was a rich golden color, had big hunks of unidentifiable fish as well as shrimp and potatoes and yucca and who knows what else. It was amazing. Just fantastic. So, I made sure to go back the next day and try a different kind.
This time, Sopa Marinara wasn't available. It had already sold out. I asked the owner, who welcomed me like a brother back to the restaurant and even sat down with me, what to order. "No problemo, Mr. Larry" was his reply. When he returned, in his hand was a massive bowl of soup that contained two whole beautiful crabs. The bowl couldn't contain their legs and claws.
He placed the crab bowl in front of me and put down a big wooden block with a massive hammer. "Bueno!" he said and returned to his other customers.
I have never ever ordered crab anything. So, I had no freaking idea what I was supposed to do with the damn things or the hammer. I started to drink the soup with my spoon and noticed that everyone else was noticing me as I was noticing them. So, I grabbed the body of the crab and started banging away at the thing.
Laughter broke out around me and the owner rushed over to me and put his hand on the hand holding the hammer. Mostly because my shirt was now full of crab bits and so were the 4 tables that surrounded me. He showed me what to do and how to start with the legs first. In my head, I was thinking: "This is too much effort I'll just pay one of the twins to get all the meat out of the damn things". But, I made do, somehow, and drank the amazing broth with the unidentifiable bits of fish and vegetables and left many pieces of crab shell in my wake by the time I left.